Sunday, July 16, 2006

summer!!! whoohoo!!!

yay!! summer!!!

ok, so i promised an exciting, action-packed blog post once i finished my summer travels. and here i sit in almaty, freshly returned from turkey, so now i will fufill that promise.

well, technically, summer's really only about halfway over, but i think i've finished doing all of the fun traveling stuff that i'm gonna do. from here on out, it's just me, planning a summer camp, and that's about it. but i digress. . . .

i had two big travel experiences this summer, one inside the stan, one outside of it. in the interest of chronology, i'll talk about the intra-stan trip first. in the middle of june, i headed up north to work with an english language summer camp. i figured it was a good deal, get some of my required summer work done, see northern stan, visit with some friends that i hadn't seen in a long ass time, sweetness.

or so it seemed. after my 30 (that's right, 30) hour train ride up north, i met up with my friend charlene. we hung out for a day or 2 then we headed off to do our english-language related duty. or so it seemed. a simple endevour, really: we arrive at the institute we were told to go to, on the day we were told to go there, to meet with the person we were told to meet with, so we can work at the camp we agreed to work at. nope. nice try. here's how it went down: camp = cancelled, international students = not allowed to come to kazakhstan for some odd reason, my return train ticket = not good for 10 more days, me = screwed. or so it seemed. the director of the institute tells me and charlene that he knows of another camp going on at a different place that we can work at. there's just one catch -- it's not an english camp, it's a boyscout camp. boyscout camp? yeah, that's what i thought, but really, it was a camp for scouts. no one there is going to speak any english, the guy said, but you can go and teach them (because it only takes a week to learn english). the camp turned out to not be so bad though, charlene and i gave some VERY basic english lessons every morning, and in the afternoon we could do what we wanted. sometimes we hung out with the kids, did some activities, went to the nightly "camp disco", that kind of stuff. we also made friends with the staff at the camp's cafe/bar -- one of the guys was an azerbaijani named "gamlet" (like shakespeare, he said, prince gamlet from denmark -- in case i haven't mentioned it before, sometimes the english letter "h" changes into the sound "g" in russian. eg -- i am from "o-guy-yo").

after the camp i headed up to visit some other northern volunteers, and can i just throw it out there that the north of the stan is like an entirely different world than what i see in the south. just one of the more humerous examples of the differences between north and south that got me teased endlessly by my fellow volunteers: in the north, pedestrians have the right of way. no joke. cars stop at crosswalks, look both ways before making a turn, obey the speed limit, and stop at stop lights. of course the opposite is true where i live, so i have develop a self-preserving fear of cars. a few times charlene would cross the street and be on the other side before she noticed that instead of following her, i was standing as far back on the sidewalk as i could, because there were cars on the road. she laughed at me, i don't think i deserved that. maybe i did, i WAS hugging a tree and crying. . . .

ok, travel story number 2: TURKEY!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! yay, turkey! i tell you what, for my money, it don't get better than turkey. holy crap, i had a blast. ann and i left the stan about 2 weeks ago for turkey. we met up with her folks and cousin for a few days in istanbul. her family was super cool, they are really nice people. but it was funny to watch ann interact with them. my normally ultra-laid back sitemate, who never lets anything get to her, was totally transformed when she was with her family. it was like she was a teenager again. i could just see her eyes rolling everytime that her parents said something akin to, "let's go into this museum/place of historical interest" or "you know, the story behind the *name of place of historical significance* is interesting in a long, drawn out way". hilarious. don't get me wrong, i probably would have been the exact same way had i met up with my folks in istanbul. i think that's why it was so funny to see ann, because i could picture myself reacting in the exact same way.

after a few days of chilling out in the city, seeing the sites and drinking the beer (let's be honest) ann and i left the city for the south of turkey and the beach!!! AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! BEACH!!!! we took an overnight bus, and in case you were wondering, the overnight buses in turkey kick the overnight buses in the stan's ass. no offence, but these buses were tricked out -- we rode in style. then i laid on the beach for a week, give or take a few minutes. super unfortunately, ann was under the weather for most of our trip, so we couldn't tear up the town as much as we had origanally anticipated. (but i tore it up just a little without her ;) )

that was the general idea of the trip, now i just want to add in some of the interesting things that happened on the trip. i'll try to give them sub-headings so you all don't get confused in my ramblings.
1. turkish guys: pastey white girls, get to turkey. literally, i was constantly getting hit on. i had a guy ask me out and give me his email and phone number BEFORE I GOT MY PASSPORT STAMPED TO ENTER THE COUNTRY. that's right, the dude at the customs counter asked yours truly on a date. (don't worry mom, i didn't go -- the phone number wouldn't work at the hotel). after a while, it just got old. i mean, damn, people, i know i'm hot; but you gotta let a sister breathe. i started to respond to unwanted flirtings in the time-tested "i don't speak english" fashion. but these guys were slick: "ah, tu hablas espanol, yo tambien lo hablo!" damn, they know spanish, it's ok. . . "ty gavaresh pa-ruskey? ny ladna, ya tozhe znayu na-ruskom!" shit! in fact, that's how one guy started hitting on me. in russian, he was all, "i heard you telling that other guy that you didn't understand english, but i noticed that you started speaking english to your friend once he left. i just wanna tell you that i think that was a cool way to get rid of a guy you don't want to talk to." unless the guy speaks russian. . .

my little language hat trick also got me nowhere when when it came to avoiding people hocking their restaurants/stores.

not that i'm complaining too much, turkish guys are hella fine and it's nice to feel attractive. i definitely have a lot more stories on this topic, but i'll not go into it too much. . . gotta preserve some of my mystique!

2. i don't speak turkish: as i implied in the previous section, in the touristy areas, sure, a lot of people speak pretty good english. however, in a less touristy environment. . . say the overland bus system, the percentage of english speakers diminishes dramatically (about 0% in my experience). not tht people should know english, i'm not saying that. i know that the transportation modes we chose are not tourist favorites. i'm just saying that it sucks when i have literally no idea what's going on and i'm trying to get around. for example: when we first get to the bus station, ann and i want to put our bags under the bus. if only. we give our bags to a guy, who was collecting bags to put under a bus. but not our bus. we have to chase the guy down to get our bags back. but we can't explain to him that we're not going on that bus, and he can't explain to us that we should get our crazy foriegn selves up out his face.

then on the way back to istanbul to make our flight, the driver pulls up to a bus station. we don't know where we are. so we ask, "istanbul?" the driver nods his head and says, "istanbul." great. so we get off the bus and get our bags, then we go to find the free shuttle back into the main part of the city so we can find a place to sleep (even though the turkish buses, like the turkish men, are pimp, it's still impossible to get a good night's sleep on a bus). we ask a guy standing by a shuttle if he's going to taksim where we need to go, "taksim?" the guy looks at us like we're crazy, "yok." (no.) then he points to a bus. the bus we were just on. he starts jibbering in turkish, but the gist was this, "this bus here is going to taksim, you have to get on it now or you're stuck at the bus station." i was too proud to get back on the bus i just got off of. i told ann we should just get a taxi, but before we could do anything, the guy we had asked about taksim was ushering us onto a bus (luckily, it was a different bus than the one i just got off of, thus saving my precious pride).

in retrospect, it's a good thing that we didn't take a taxi, because we were on the wrong continent when we got to the bus station. it took us 40 minutes to get to the place that actually had the shuttles to take us to taksim. the taxi ride would have been hella expensive.

3. this post is getting rediculously long: i'm gonna wrap this up. if you want to know more about my adventures, let me know and maybe i'll post more later. oh, and if anyone wants to go to turkey, ever, go! and take me with you!!



Blogger Mom said...

Hi Ashli!!!!

I'm so glad to here your summer was awesome!!!
I for one would live to hear more
summer adventures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love you


2:07 PM  
Blogger Big Sis said...

Quite the adventure Ashli!
Love the foreign language technique for brush-offs, lol!

Aunt Paula

8:49 PM  

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